I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Thursday, October 11, 2012


(A) Jesus laid his life down for the sheep (vv 11, 15, 18).
   (A. 1) If, Jesus' death was intended to atone only for those who believe;[i]
   (A. 2) and, being a sheep is a necessary precondition for belief (v 26),[ii]
   (A. 3) then, Jesus' death was intended to atone only for sheep.
(B) Certain ones, however, are not sheep (v 26).
(C) Therefore, Jesus' death was not intended to atone for non-sheep.
(D) The intent of the atonement was, therefore, limited.

[i] E.g., Jn 6:37—40 plainly states that all whom the Father gives the Son will come (ἤξει, the future, active indicative of ἥκω) to the Son; of those who come, the Son will never, never cast out (note double negative in the Greek); Jesus came to do only the will of the Father, which was to raise up on the last day all those given him, losing nothing.  The Father’s will, finally, is that every believing-one on Jesus should have eternal life (see also Jn 3:16 below).  Therefore, it is God’s will that only believers gain eternal life.  For these, and these only, did Jesus’ death atone. 

The same is demonstrable from Jn 3:16.

JOHN 3:14b—16 (trans. mine)

14b.   οὕτως ὑψωθῆναι δεῖ τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,

15a.   ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται,
    b.   ἀλλ᾿ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

16a.   οὕτω γὰρ ἡγάπησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν κόσμον,
    b.   ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν,
    c.    ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται,
    d.    ἀλλ᾿ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

14b.   In this manner, [also], the Son of Man [must be lifted up, supplied from 14a],

15a.    in order that [or, for the purpose of] every believing-one into Him may not perish,
    b.    but may have life eternal.

16a.   [This is so] because, in this manner did God love the cosmos,
    b.   that He gave His only Son [to be lifted up on the cross],
    c.    in order that [or, for the purpose of] every believing-one into Him may not perish,
    d.    but have life eternal.

Granting the hina (Gk. ἵνα) clauses of v 15a and 16c, it is clear that the divine intention of the Father’s giving of the Son unto his cross-work was hina, that is, for the purpose of, or having the result of, eternal life for every believing-one in Christ.  The divine intention of Jesus’ cross-work and death was for those who would believe, regardless of how one may think that one comes to believe (see also 1 Jn 4:10). 

Romans 3:21—26, the heart of Paul’s gospel, which bears out similar evidence.  God’s saving righteousness, through the setting forth of Jesus was “for all who believe” (v 22).  “Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (vv 24c—25a ESV).  God put forward the propitiatory, wrath-satisfying, life-giving blood of Jesus “to be received by faith.”  This way, God might be both just and the justifier of the “one who has faith in Jesus” (v 26b).  The divine intention behind putting Jesus forth as Propitiator was only for those who believe, who have faith in Jesus.  Gal 2:16—21 also bear the same witness. 

[ii] Careful attention to the Greek is paramount for a correct understanding of the force of this premise (actually, it is prima facie clear in the English, but the Greek nuances only strengthen the plain English reading). John 10:26 reads, ἀλλ᾿ ὑμεῖς οὐ πιστεύετε· / οὐ γὰρ ἐστὲ ἐκ τῶν προβάτων τῶν ἐμῶν, / καθώς εἶπον ὑμῖν.  The γὰρ signals the grounds clause, which is “because (gar) you are not my sheep.”  The common conception of the principle that Jesus here expresses is that, certain people are not Jesus’ sheep, because they do not believe; or, similarly, one becomes a sheep of Jesus’ fold by believing.  Of course this latter expression is true, as far as it goes.  However, what is explicit in this verse is that one comes to believe by being a sheep; or, similarly, as Jesus puts it, certain people do not believe, because he or she is not one of his sheep.  Therefore, being a sheep is a necessary precondition for belief (see similarly, Jn 8:47).

Also to be noted, with reference to premise (B) above, is the hyperbatonic positioning of the οὐ in the second clause.  In this, Jesus emphatically stresses the fact that some of those to whom he is speaking are NOT (οὐ) his sheep.  

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